Leading commercial banks Swedbank and SEB have not allowed bank transfers to or from Russia for some time, while LHV has been accepting some incoming payments but is planning additional restrictions.
No EU sanctions package includes a ban on bank transfers. The initiative is that of the banks whose reasons for doing so are similar.
April 20 was the last day customers could send transfers to Russia and Belarus at Swedbank. Payments from the two countries were accepted until May 6. Since then, all transfers have been returned to sender.
Martin Korv, head of communications for Swedbank, said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine made transactions with Russia very risky.
“Customers who made transfers or sent goods to Russia risked losing their money or items. There was also a very real danger of violating sanctions. That is why we are not offering payments services to and from Russia and Belarus, except for in certain cases tied to Estonia’s national interests or humanitarian reasons, such as pension payments,” Korv said.
SEB ended payments services with Russia from June 1. The same exceptions are in place: humanitarian grounds or national interests.
Head of client risk and security for SEB Monika Kallas-Anton said that ending Russia bank transfers was a risk-based decision.
“We decided to stop offering payments services because the war in Ukraine and notable sanctions and restrictions against the Russian Federation, its citizens and companies made it very difficult and risky to handle transactions,” Kallas-Anton said.
Spokespeople for LHV said that payments to Russia were restricted in late March, while incoming payments were subject to limitations in line with sanctions.
“We are also planning additional restrictions for incoming payments and are in the process of informing our customers,” Hannes Oja, head of anti-money laundering at LHV, said.
Oja said that the extent of sanctions against Russia was unprecedented and to avoid possible mistakes in compliance, credit institutions had voluntarily introduced full or extensive restrictions for Russia payments.
Payment orders to Belarusian banks have been unavailable since late March. LHV has reserved the right not to mediate payments to occupied parts of Ukraine.
The bank’s website reveals that payments cannot be made from many Russian banks and branches that can be registered or active outside of Russia.
Spokespeople for Swedbank, SEB and LHV said that not facilitating payments to Russia and Belarus concerned a very small part of customers. Kallas-Anton said that bank transfers to Russia made up just 0.9% of all payments handled by SEB in 2019. (ERR/Business World Magazine)